Cinnamon Streusel Coffee Swirl Cake with Caramel Penuche

(Congrats to Pearl, who won last week’s KIND bar giveaway! And thank you to everyone who showed their kindest support by entering.)

Once every few months, you probably have one of those days where you just stop and think, My god, that was a really good day.

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Maybe your friend surprised you with a late birthday present, or you got to go to the happiest place on Earth with friends, or maybe you ran 10 miles and then proceeded to stuff your face with 40 vendors’ worth of breakfast food samples, a giant chocolate-and-sprinkle dipped cookie dough ice cream cone with more sprinkles on top, and freakin’ bomb Chinese food.

Around here, these days are not the exception: they are the norm.

And yes, ALL of these things happened to me on this exceptionally normal day.

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I was browsing through my Brain archives tonight thinking about what I wanted to write, and it suddenly hit me that it’s been a long time since I’ve talked about ME. Instead, I’ve been off pontificating and musing and philosophizing about a whole bunch of things, which is totally fine, but then you’re probably thinking that I spend my self-professedly “busy” daytimes off running drug cartels or something.

Which I’m not. Btw.

In case you were wondering why I’m posting coffee cake instead of brownies this week. Ahrm.


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A lot–and I mean a lot–of my time has been spent researching. I’m also shuttling myself back and forth a lot these days due to personal issues, which is a cryptic way of saying that I’m on the road a lot and majorly burnt out. However, once in a while any time I’m not crashing and burning, I’m having an adventurous time doing things like going to a Pancake Day Festival where over 40 vendors bring out their best samples of food and you spend 3 hours eating 50 bajillion types of breakfast sammies, pancakes (of course), grit parfaits, veganaise-topped frittatas, salted caramel bread pudding, and dulce de leche churros (which is a breakfast food–obvi).

12 hours later, my eyes are still food coma-ing from the mere sight of these pictures which–believe me–don’t even begin to do justice to the ridiculous number of plates we picked up and stuffed into our happy bellies!

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Of course…..

No amount of food comatosification (yes, I just made up a word–I am 94% sure that earning a Master’s Degree in English entitles me to do that) was about to stop us from doing this when we got to DISNEYLAND at 3 PM:

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Yes, that’s sprinkles on top of a sprinkle-dipped chocolate waffle cone and a ginormous scoop of ice cream from Gibson Girl’s. Go big or go bigger, momma always said.

The great thing about being an annual passholder is that days at Disneyland do not feel like a neurotic roadtrip with your in-laws. Granted, I have no idea in holy heck what that would be like (stressful, I imagine), but line-jumping and crowd-weaving and kid-hurtling are all distant memories. We hit up a few shows (Mickey’s Magic Map was AMAZING, for the record), rode the fastest spinning teacup on the Mad Hatter’s ride (note: it’s the purple one), and just chilled and ate ice cream while waiting in line for Aladdin.

And then we went home, and my awesome Disney buddy gave me this drawing he bought from the shop for my (belated) birthday present:

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He knows I love Ellie so. Darn. Much. She and I are basically kindred spirits, except kindreder.

Anyway, that’s kind of questionable proof that I do still exist, and that I do have the busy life that I claim I lead, and that my blog hasn’t been replaced by a semi-automated robotic arm that periodically updates delicious photos here to avoid arousing suspicion about the fact that it actually ate me alive in my sleep.

Or something like that.

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But I’m sure you’ll excuse Homocidal Robo-Arm if you are looking at this bomb Cinnamon Streusel Coffee Swirl Cake with Caramel Penuche I made a few weeks ago for a group of friends. He’s got good taste for an A.I. creature, I’ll give him that much.

This cake was some of the moistest and crumb-iest (not crummy!) cake I’ve made, and no wonder–I adapted it from this Lemon Curd Coffee Crumb Cake recipe that got rave reviews and tons of attention when I posted it for #SundaySupper two weekends ago. But what I love best is the warming, Fall-anticipatory taste of cinnamon that absolutely fills up the kitchen while it’s baking. And that crumb!

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What really sends this cake over the top, though, is the top: yessiree, that caramel penuche! None of the fuss of actual caramel (move aside, candy thermometers)–just a little bit of brown sugar & butter boiling happily away, plus a few staple pantry ingredients, and you’re on your way to one darn good slice of coffee crumb cake.

And believe you me when I say that if this cake was still hanging around in my kitchen, we’d be having a massive tete-a-belly right about now…..even after pancakesicecreameverything.

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Do me a favor and make this ASAP. Then do me a favor and do not send it to me, or I may love you forever and sit creepily outside your front window under the hedges with a fork and a big sign that declares you are the Coffee Cake Queen/King.

With a big heart on it.

Okay, time to stop writing. Cheerios, and happy Today is Coffee Cake Monday!

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Cinnamon Streusel Coffee Swirl Cake with Caramel Penuche

Cinnamon Streusel Coffee Swirl Cake with Caramel Penuche

This crazy good streusel coffee cake uses the same base recipe as my rave-reviewed Lemon Curd Coffee Crumb Cake but with a cinnamon-y twist! Heavy on the crumb and packed with a burst of brown sugar flavor from the penuche, this recipe is a great alternative to my other coffee cake recipe. (The zested lemon in this recipe was actually an accident since I had my mind on the other cake recipe--a lovely accident!)


Cinnamon Swirl:

  • - 1/4 cup white sugar
  • - 2 tablespoons ground cinnamon

Streusel Coffee Cake:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup + 2 tablespoons white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 10 tablespoons butter or margarine, cold
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk, room temperature
  • 1 egg, room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest, optional
  • 2/3 cup brown sugar

Caramel Penuche:

  • 1/2 cup butter or margarine
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup milk or dairy-free milk
  • 1 1/4 cup powdered sugar

Vanilla Drizzle:

  • 3/4 cup confectioner's sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon milk, added only as needed


For the cinnamon swirl:

  1. Mix together sugar and cinnamon. Set aside.

For the streusel coffee cake:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 10-cup bundt pan and set aside.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, and salt. Cut in butter using a fork, until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Set aside 1 cup of this mixture.
  3. Mix baking powder and baking soda into the remaining large bowl of flour mixture. Add buttermilk, egg, and vanilla, and mix vigorously until batter is smooth and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes. (Sally notes here that it should resemble frosting.) Gently stir in lemon zest if using.
  4. To make the crumb: Mix brown sugar into the reserved flour mixture.
  5. Sprinkle half of your crumb topping as evenly as possible into your bundt pan. Pour half of the batter into prepared pan, then sprinkle prepared cinnamon-sugar mixture over the batter, followed by the remaining crumb topping, leaving an inch around the edges so your batter can seep in. Pour remaining batter on top.
  6. Bake in preheated oven for 50-55 minutes, until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

For the caramel penuche:

  1. In a saucepan over medium heat, melt butter. Stir in brown sugar and bring mixture to a boil for 2 minutes. Add milk, then bring to a boil again. Turn off heat and quickly whisk in powdered sugar until penuche is completely smooth. Allow to cool slightly (but not completely) before pouring over cake.

For the vanilla drizzle:

  1. Combine sugar, vanilla, and cinnamon in a medium bowl. Add up to 1 tablespoon of milk (as needed to reach drizzling consistency). Drizzle over the top of your cooled coffee cake and enjoy!


16 Replies to “Cinnamon Streusel Coffee Swirl Cake with Caramel Penuche”

  1. I have never heard of penuche, but this cake looks delicious, yet again!

    I’m glad you had such an awesome day 🙂

    Take care!

    1. Thanks so much, Marcella! Penuche is the most wonderful of wonderful things, especially with that caramel tone. Have an awesome week!

  2. Ahhh that looks like the best days ever!! It’s always fun to eat and be with great friends 😉 And boy is this coffee cake amazing girl!! Goodness!!! That streusel!!

    1. Yes! Eating anything, especially coffee cake, with friends is such an awesome blessing. We actually have a funny rule in one of my circles where we will only eat questionable foods together–because we go for the “experience” and company. 😉 have an awesome week–thanks, Zainab!! I still need to catch up with your blog.

  3. Adore the intensity of your weekend, especially the scrumptious food! Although I couldn’t be there to share a plate, I’ll take a big fat slice of that gorgeous Coffee Cake!

    1. Thank you, Deb! I would totally invite you over for cake, you’re so lovely. I hope you have a week as lovely as yourself!

  4. It does sound like you had a good day! And if we make this, our day will be good, too. 😉 Super recipe — thanks.

    1. Yes, do yourself that favor and make this cake! I’ll take a slice, too, to share 🙂

  5. Hey! Don’t burn out 😛 Glad you are having fun at pancake festivals and stuff in the middle of all that work. The coffee cake looks awesome and that caramel penuche seems like something i should learn how to make asap!!

    1. haha–thanks, gal! I am totally burning out, but we shall make do, and plus I’m excited to commiserate with all of you this coming week 😀 yesss you already know how to make so many amazing things, I hope you add this one to your repertoire!

  6. Caramel penuche!?! Good grief Ala – I don’t think my mouth has watered that fast in months!! This cake look fantastic – pinned!

    1. Aww, you’re such a gem, Trish! This comment just made my day. Thanks for the pin, and I hope you have an extraordinary week 🙂

  7. That sounds like a wonderful day. Only one problem: so many pancakes, so little room in one’s tummy. Happy belated birthday!
    That coffee cake looks divine. I’ve never thought to try making a caramel penuche. That’s brilliant. So much easier than making actual caramel and probably a lot smoother to pour, too.

    1. TELL me about it, Tifa! My tummy was not a happy camper afterwards, I felt so completely stuffed. This penuche is absolutely a cinch and I do love it much more than caramel, which can be a total pain! You should definitely try it when you can. Thank you, lovely!

  8. Holy shizz, girl! This cake is ridiculously amazing and so moist ‘n fluffy inside! That caramel penuche needs to be poured directly into my mouth. I would’ve eaten myself into a happy pancake coma if I went to that Pancake Day celebration. I know you’ve been super busy so I’m glad you were able to take some time to have fun! You deserve it.

  9. Yay, so glad you are taking some time out with friends and going to pancake festivals! Looks like so much fun! And goodness this coffee cake is amazing girl!! I can’t stop drooling over that streusel, glaze and caramel penuche! A masterpiece I tell ya!

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